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J Bacteriol. 2016 Dec 13;199(1). pii: e00465-16. Print 2017 Jan 1.

Cell-Biological Studies of Osmotic Shock Response in Streptomyces spp.

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Department of Biology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Department of Biology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
Swansea University Medical School, Swansea, United Kingdom.


Most bacteria are likely to face osmotic challenges, but there is yet much to learn about how such environmental changes affect the architecture of bacterial cells. Here, we report a cell-biological study in model organisms of the genus Streptomyces, which are actinobacteria that grow in a highly polarized fashion to form branching hyphae. The characteristic apical growth of Streptomyces hyphae is orchestrated by protein assemblies, called polarisomes, which contain coiled-coil proteins DivIVA and Scy, and recruit cell wall synthesis complexes and the stress-bearing cytoskeleton of FilP to the tip regions of the hyphae. We monitored cell growth and cell-architectural changes by time-lapse microscopy in osmotic upshift experiments. Hyperosmotic shock caused arrest of growth, loss of turgor, and hypercondensation of chromosomes. The recovery period was protracted, presumably due to the dehydrated state of the cytoplasm, before hyphae could restore their turgor and start to grow again. In most hyphae, this regrowth did not take place at the original hyphal tips. Instead, cell polarity was reprogrammed, and polarisomes were redistributed to new sites, leading to the emergence of multiple lateral branches from which growth occurred. Factors known to regulate the branching pattern of Streptomyces hyphae, such as the serine/threonine kinase AfsK and Scy, were not involved in reprogramming of cell polarity, indicating that different mechanisms may act under different environmental conditions to control hyphal branching. Our observations of hyphal morphology during the stress response indicate that turgor and sufficient hydration of cytoplasm are required for Streptomyces tip growth.


Polar growth is an intricate manner of growth for accomplishing a complicated morphology, employed by a wide range of organisms across the kingdoms of life. The tip extension of Streptomyces hyphae is one of the most pronounced examples of polar growth among bacteria. The expansion of the cell wall by tip extension is thought to be facilitated by the turgor pressure, but it was unknown how external osmotic change influences Streptomyces tip growth. We report here that severe hyperosmotic stress causes cessation of growth, followed by reprogramming of cell polarity and rearrangement of growth zones to promote lateral hyphal branching. This phenomenon may represent a strategy of hyphal organisms to avoid osmotic stress encountered by the growing hyphal tip.


Streptomyces; apical growth; bacterial cytoskeleton; osmotic stress response; turgor

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